Creative Commons and the Dissertation

David Parry bio photo By David Parry

No secret to the readers of this site that I am a bit of an evangelist for Creative Commons. And those who follow the work of danah boyd know that she filed her dissertation under a creative commons license. Despite the fact that the CC license is easy to use, some institutions have been weary to accept this in lieu of copyright. For those who haven’t filed a dissertation recently, the organization under which you file, ProQuest encourages you to copyright your submission, for which they charge a fee of $65. So, licensing under creative commons would seem to be a better option (especially since you can restrict use to non-commericial).

The hurdle for CC though is often on the Universities side, whether or not the graduate school will allow it. When I filed my dissertation at the University at Albany (in July of 2007), I sort of discretely included a creative commons page, and hoped that no one would notice, hoping to avoid any “official” policy discussions, as I was running up against a deadline and did not have time to make a principled stand. (Side story: I filled the dissertation as movers were packing up our house, and actually had a second set of front matter printed out and ready to swap out in case the CC license didn’t fly with the graduate office.) No one noticed, and thus my dissertation was submitted with a CC license. But, I happen to know someone this semester at Albany who just filled a dissertation. Initially the graduate school rejected the submission for something like “unknown foreign characters” on the title page. I assume they were referring to the CC license images. But after some discussion, the graduate office sent the following in an email:


Good news indeed. Give it up for the University at Albany! (Formerly known as SUNY Albany but that’s a different story all together.) Here’s hoping more schools follow suit.